One of the hottest stories this week is news surrounding the infamous “Missing Cryptoqueen.” On the run since 2017, the Cryptoqueen is the newest addition to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) top 10 most wanted list. It’s the first time a crypto scammer has managed to end up on such a notorious list. But who is Cryptoqueen Ruja Ignatova? And why has she been on the run for nearly five years? Moreover, why does the U.S. government now want her in custody so badly?
It seems the U.S. is significantly ramping up its efforts to catch Ignatova after chasing her for half of a decade. Yesterday, the FBI offered up $100,000 to anybody with information relating to her location. The body suggests that Ignatova could be traveling with armed guards. It also suggests she could have undergone cosmetic surgery to obfuscate her identity. Today, the FBI continued its effort to track Ignatova by adding her to its list of the top 10 most-wanted fugitives.
These attempts to locate and arrest Ignatova stem from several charges brought against her in 2019 — two years after she went missing. The U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York charged Ignatova in abstentia with eight counts of wire fraud and securities fraud. In the time she’s been on the run from law enforcement, Ignatova has built up a cult following. Her crimes were recorded in the BBC podcast “The Missing Cryptoqueen” and a book of the same name.
Crypto crime isn’t really unique, though. Hacks and scams take place nearly every week. Why is Ignatova so wanted? Here’s everything you need to know about the Cryptoqueen’s scam, OneCoin.
Who Is Cryptoqueen Ruja Ignatova?
Ruja Ignatova first came became known in 2014 when she claimed to have created a cryptocurrency that could rival Bitcoin (BTC-USD). Called OneCoin, the project was a fast success. Between January and June of 2016, well over $500 million went into the project. Most of these investments came from China. Of course, it’s worth noting that the Chinese government has vastly cracked down on crypto trading in the country in the years since.
At this point, OneCoin had become one of the most hyped projects in the world. To continue with its monumental economic tear, Ignatova took to the stage at Wembley Arena in the UK to pitch investors on the project still. The event is perhaps the most notable moment in the history of the project. Ignatova promised investors that OneCoin would be the digital currency used to make payments anywhere, for anything.
Nowadays, investors know that these bold claims are often just full of hot air. But in 2016, Bitcoin was worth only a few hundred dollars. The general public didn’t have quite as much knowledge of the market as they do now. However, several government entities had released warnings regarding the project.
After six more months of raking in investors’ money in similar stadium pitches, the project went offline randomly in January 2017. The entire time, OneCoin had been a Ponzi scheme. The “developers” of the project were lying about returns to investors. They didn’t even have a real blockchain database to begin with. Ignatova ended up disappearing in October of 2017, taking with her the $4 billion in assets she had stolen.
Since then, no police organizations have been able to track down Ignatova. Several people related to the project have been arrested and charged, including Ignatova’s brother in 2019. To this day, the scam remains one of the most mysterious and costly in the history of cryptocurrency.
On the date of publication, Brenden Rearick did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.